Working With People Who Are Different From You

© 2024 Richard Chandler, MA, LPC, The Business Partners Counselor

Building successful working relationships with individuals who have different personalities and work styles can be challenging yet incredibly rewarding. In this article, we will explore the importance of more deeply understanding your coworkers, embracing diversity, and offering strategies for navigating difficult business relationships.


Appreciating Differences - Yours and Your Coworkers


It is natural to gravitate towards individuals who share similar traits and perspectives, as they often make collaboration easier. However, limiting ourselves to working solely with like-minded individuals can hinder personal and professional growth. By intentionally working with people who are different from us, we grow through exposure to:

  1. Differing perspectives
  2. Surprising ideas, at least from our perspective
  3. Opportunities to expand our comfort range

Benefits of Embracing Differences in Your Workplace

  • Increased creativity and innovation through diverse perspectives and ideas.
  • Improved problem-solving capabilities by considering a wider range of viewpoints.
  • Enhanced decision-making through the integration of diverse expertise and experiences.
  • Increased adaptability as team members adjust to differing ways of doing things.
  • Improved employee engagement and satisfaction by fostering an inclusive work environment.

The Power of Flexibility When a Business Relationship Has Faltered

When faced with a less compatible business relationship, get a fresh start by approaching your coworker with curiosity, an open mind, and a willingness to adapt. Recognize that each individual brings unique strengths and ways of thinking to the organization, which can greatly enrich the collaborative process.

Instead of solely focusing on the differences, seek to understand and appreciate:

  1. That person’s abilities and strengths
  2. Their views and unique perspectives
  3. Their differing working styles

You have it in your power to form a more inclusive and productive working environment, one coworker at a time. With this mindset shift, you can find common ground and build stronger working relationships based on shared goals, mutual respect, and newly recognized appreciation.


Can You Build Understanding with Coworkers Who Are Different from You?

A willingness to seek understanding and effective communication can bridge gaps between coworkers. Invest the time and effort to get to know the other person on a deeper level, going beyond surface-level differences. This involves actively seeking to understand their motivations, work style, and communication preferences.

By gaining this knowledge, you can tailor your approach to search for and find common ground. Taking the time to engage in meaningful conversations and building a foundation of trust and respect can significantly enhance collaboration and create an inclusive and harmonious work environment.

Flexing and Adapting Removes Barriers to Cooperative Workplace Relationships


Flexibility is key to working successfully with coworkers who are different from you. Be willing to adapt your communication style, problem-solving approach, and decision-making processes to accommodate the needs and preferences of the other person.

By demonstrating flexibility, you show respect for their unique perspective. This approach will remove past barriers in working with that person. As your relationship improves, you and your coworker will be a positive example of how to create a more collaborative and productive working environment.

There are three outstanding tools to foster understanding of people with different personality types:

  1. Myers-Briggs® Step II Assessment
  2. People Styles at Work
  3. The AQai Adaptability Assessment

With a clearer and more accurate understanding of yourself and your coworkers, it becomes easier to accept your own and each others' differences. Those assessments also give you a roadmap for flexing to others’ styles, leading to increased cooperation.

Five Ways to Demonstrate Flexibility When Working with Others:

  1. Adapt your communication style: Be willing to adjust your communication approach to match the preferences and needs of the person you are working with. This may involve being more direct and more (or sometimes less) detailed in your communication, depending on their communication style.
  2. Adjust your problem-solving approach: Recognize that different people differ in how they approach and solve problems. Be open to considering alternative solutions and approaches that may differ from your own.
  3. Accommodate different work styles: Understand that people may have different work styles and preferences. Be flexible in adapting to their work style when collaborating on projects or tasks. Adjust timelines, prioritize tasks differently, or find ways to accommodate both parties' preferences.
  4. Be open to feedback and suggestions: Embrace feedback as an opportunity for growth and improvement. Be willing to listen to others' ideas and suggestions, even if they differ from your own. Incorporate their feedback into how you cooperatively work together and be open to trying new approaches.
  5. Collaborate and compromise: Recognize that successful collaboration often requires compromise and finding a middle ground. Be willing to meet halfway and find solutions that satisfy both parties' wants, needs, and objectives. Brainstorm, negotiate, and find creative solutions that accommodate everyone's perspectives.

Remember, demonstrating flexibility shows your willingness to adapt and work effectively with others. It fosters a collaborative and inclusive working environment that promotes better teamwork and overall success.

Move from Challenge & Conflict to Common Ground & Understanding

Coworkers increasing organizational adaptability

Working through initial challenges and conflicts can lead to personal growth and increased understanding. How?

  • Embrace discomfort as an opportunity for learning and growth
  • Approach difficult situations with empathy, active listening, and a genuine desire to find common ground
  • Be patient and persistent, as building effective working relationships takes time and effort.

Expanding Your Professional Relationships Horizons

Working with individuals who are different from you can expand your own capabilities and perspectives. As I have encountered many times in my career, embracing diversity can lead to personal growth and new insights. Consider seeking out workshops or training programs that focus on understanding different personality types and how they can interact effectively in a professional setting.


Concluding Thoughts for Working with People Who Are Different from You

Working with people who are different from you can be challenging, but it is an opportunity for personal and professional growth. By embracing diversity, demonstrating flexibility, and actively seeking to understand and appreciate others, you can build strong and successful working relationships.

Remember, the discomfort of stepping outside your comfort zone is often a catalyst for positive change and development.

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If you find yourself struggling with a difficult business relationship, consider seeking professional business counseling and guidance. A neutral third party trained in psychology, business, and facilitation is in a strong position to help your organization resolve interpersonal conflicts, especially thorny ones that you have not been able to move past on your own.

Reach out to me, Richard Chandler, MA, LPC, The Business Partners Counselor, to find strategies tailored to your specific situation.

At Strategic Leadership Consultants, we believe in the power of diverse teams and the importance of effective collaboration. We work with effective assessments for increasing team understanding and cohesiveness, including:

Contact us to explore how we can support your organization in fostering inclusive and productive working environments.

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